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Facebook has been hit by yet another privacy backlash, this time from an online democracy watchdog which has mounted a campaign against part of the social networking site's new advertising strategy.

MoveOn.org charges that Facebook's Beacon ad program violates privacy because it automatically broadcasts what a user has bought on external partner sites to their friends', family and acquaintances' so-called News Feeds.

It reckons that displaying private purchases is "a huge invasion of privacy" and that the app itself poses problems for users because it is difficult to opt out of altogether.

Instead, Facebook users have to opt out of participating retail sites such as eBay on a case-by-case basis because there is no universal option.

"A lot of us love Facebook - it's helping to revolutionise the way we connect with each other," said MoveOn, "but they need to take privacy seriously."

Unsurprisingly, a protest group against the ad program has been set up on Facebook in which users have posted testimonials that say Christmas has been ruined because gifts they have bought have been published on their News Feeds.

The group currently has close to 5,000 members criticising Facebook's latest method of punting user data to marketeers.

Like many other Web 2.0 beasts, Facebook has been tinkering with ways and means of making social networking a lucrative money-spinner. Boss Mark Zuckerberg has dubbed this new system Social Ads.

In a statement about the latest brouhaha, Facebook said yesterday: "Information is shared with a small selection of a user's trusted network of friends, not publicly on the web or with all Facebook users.

"Users also are given multiple ways to choose not to share information from a participating site, both on that site and on Facebook."

Meanwhile, MoveOn has called for Facebook to reverse what it described as a "massive privacy breach". Oddly, in a Web 2.0 twist, it's also encouraging people to join its Facebook protest group. But of course first you have to be a member of the ubiquitous social networking utility... ®

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